The Steam Summer Sale Used to be Awesome
The Summer Sale is one of Valve’s biggest money-makers and each year’s largest event on Steam. Everyone knows it’s coming, and every year the dates inevitably get leaked. This year it was by a now deleted PayPalUK tweet. PC gamers around the world have prepared their wallets and were looking forward to the spectacle and possibility of picking up some games at great prices. Today, I am here to tell you that the Steam Summer Sale used to be so much better and, quite frankly, is just a shadow of its former self now.
Steam Summer Sales have always been about more than just great deals; they’ve involved the community and created a reason for gamers to visit the store, often multiple times a day. That is, after all, the best way to find those great deals. Valve introduced Trading Cards several years ago, so it quickly became a mini-game inside the sale to collect enough cards to craft the annual Summer Sale badge. You collect cards by purchasing games as well as various other tasks, most notably, the mindless clicking through the discovery queue, a place no one ever goes to except during sales events in the quest for cards. These trading cards and the Summer Sale badge are the only remaining pieces of the Steam Summer Sale’s former glory.
So, what exactly is missing? Past Steam Summer Sales nearly required an analytical approach to ensuring you could get the best deal available. YouTubers made videos, Redditors crafted flowcharts, journalists wrote strategy guides on the best way not to miss out. Yes, I understand, that maybe it wasn’t always fair, and there certainly were many cases of disgruntled customers when they realized the game they just bought ended up being even cheaper a day later. But it was an event! Did I mention there was a flowchart?
There were three types of deals that used to feature prominently during past sales:
Daily Deals are self-explanatory; prices that would last for 24 hours and 24 hours only. These deals were as good as they got. Announced the day before, these gave gamers some opportunity to plan and build excitement for the opportunity to snag a title from their Wishlist.
Flash Sales ran four times a day, for 6 hours at a time. The number of games on a flash sale was very small, which made this exciting. It enticed gamers to come back to the store on a regular basis, almost like clockwork.
Community Choice deals involved three games that the community voted on once or twice a day. It made the whole experience seem interactive, gave customers a feeling of being able to influence what deals would become available. Even if there was no interest in any of the games, I would attempt to gauge the community’s desires and vote accordingly.
If we contrast the above methods of involving customers in the sale with what’s on offer now, a stale, the-price-you-see-is-the-price-you-get mantra, it’s easy to see why things aren’t nearly as exciting as they used to be. Sure, there are deals to be had, though there does seem to be less deals that would qualify as amazing, and none of it feels special. It’s just drab, and frankly, boring.
“But what about the Steam Summer Sale Sticker Book?”, I hear you ask. I consider that to be this year’s gimmick. Every sale in the past few years has had one. Remember the Monster Summer Game from 2015? I’m pretty sure Valve owes me a new mouse from that game… These distractions are merely ways to keep you busy and on their website. They contribute nothing to the actual sale, provide no sense of involvement, no real rewards, nothing anything close to resembling fun. As cute as some (not many) of the stickers in this year’s mini game are, the quests you embark on to collect stickers are about as lame as you could imagine. Unless of course, exploring your friends’ activity stream and configuring some personalization option are your idea of fun… I get it, Valve wants to show us areas of Steam that no one usually goes to, but it’s still just a thinly veiled game that isn’t fun in any way, shape, or form. I say this as a bit of a nut when it comes to collecting stickers, by the way, so it’s not like this idea is totally foreign to me.
If I had my way, I would want to see future Steam Sales return to a format that would make me want to check out the deals, and encourage me to participate in some way. I want to do more than just click forward in my queue in the hopes of getting another random trading card drop on my way to crafting a fictional badge that I’ll never look at again. Things like daily deals and flash sales worked well to get me to make impulse purchases and come away from a sale with a big list of new games to try. That’s what I miss, and that’s what I hope will return to future Steam Summer Sales. For the record, I have so far spent $0 on this year’s sale. Sad.